Outgoing Ala. AG files oil spill suits

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 13, 2010, 12:19pm


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Troy King filed two lawsuits Thursday, suing oil giant BP and others over the Gulf oil spill.

King, who says the oil company has broken too many promises about accepting responsibility for the disaster, filed the suits in federal court in Montgomery on behalf of the state.

The lawsuits -- one against BP and the other against Transocean, Halliburton and other companies associated with the spill -- seek economic and punitive damages. No specific amount was listed.

King announced last month he was preparing a lawsuit against the company and the others responsible for the spill to make up for lost tax revenue.

King described the spill as "the largest legal disaster ever encountered," and said the state would be working for years to rebuild its economy.

An explosion and fire occurred on Transocean's drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, licensed to BP, on April 20, killing 11 workers and resulting in the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

King's lawsuits accuse the companies of damaging Alabama's coast and economy through "negligent or wanton failure to adhere to recognized industry standards."

BP spokesman Justin Saia told The Associated Press the company had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

At least 300 federal lawsuits have been filed in 12 states against BP and the other three main companies involved in the April 20 explosion.

King sued against the wishes of Gov. Bob Riley, who hopes to reach an out-of-court settlement with the companies.

BP was leasing the rig Deepwater Horizon from owner-operator Transocean Ltd. when it exploded and sank. Halliburton Energy Services Inc., had been working to cap the well that ended up leaking with cement prior to the explosion. The broken well spewed some 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months before it was plugged.

Riley spokesman Todd Stacy told the AP the governor had not seen the lawsuits. He said the state is still compiling a list of economic damages that it will submit to BP soon. If the company doesn't provide fair and fast compensation, then the state would have a dispute.

Some question King's timing, being that the attorney general lost in the primary and is on his way out at the end of the year. They suggest any decisions made regarding the state's handling of BP be left up to his successor.

Republican attorney general-hopeful Luther Strange, the Birmingham lawyer who ousted King in the June 1 primary, has said King should have consulted with the governor and Gulf Coast mayors to make sure the litigation doesn't hurt ongoing negotiations with the oil company.

The Democratic nominee for attorney general, Montgomery lawyer James Anderson, has said King may have had a stronger case if he brought in Alabama cities and counties affected by the spill and possibly even other Gulf states.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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